Why is it that we think that buying a new camera will help us become more creative with our photography?
Why do we think that buying more lenses and gear will help us break out of our “photographer’s block”? Why is it that whenever we buy a new camera, lens, or tripod — we suddenly revert back to baseline enthusiasm after 2 weeks?
Trust me, I’m the first to say that I’m a sucker for gear. I always “need” the newest smartphone, laptop, tablet, and gadgets. I think a lot of this comes from a sense of insecurity. I am afraid that if I don’t have the newest and the greatest, somehow my creativity will be throttled.
In reality, I’ve found the opposite to be true. Having too much gear, equipment, and stuff hinders us. It distracts us. It weighs us down, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
I still haven’t cured all of my G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) ills. But finally for once in my life, I feel a little peace and tranquility. So consider this as a letter to myself. None of this might apply to you. But I hope you find a few points that can be helpful.
1. Don’t forget about “hedonic adaptation”
Why is it that after we buy a new camera, we are initially super excited, enthusiastic, and inspired— then 2 weeks later it starts to collect dust on our shelves (like every other camera that we bought in the past?)
Psychologists call this adjustment to our new possessions as “hedonic adaptation.” Hedonism meaning feeling pleasure. Adaptation meaning that no matter what we buy, we will sooner or later “get used to it.”
If you think about “pleasure” as electric signals stimulating our brain — there is a point where novelty wears off. Ask any heroin addict— there is a certain point that getting more and more dopamine to hit your brain, you get adjusted.
It is hard for me to remind myself that no matter what I buy, I will get used to it after about 2 weeks or a month or so.
This happens to everyone. If you buy a new fancy car, suddenly you get used to it — and then you’re looking for the next new fancy car to buy.
The same happens for smartphones. We think that the newest phone will change and revolutionize our lives. But after 2 weeks, it becomes like any other metal slab with a touch screen.
The same thing happens with cameras. There will always be new cameras, with more dials, more megapixels, and new functions. All new cameras will have faster and more accurate autofocusing systems, better high-ISO performance, and better image quality.
Yet whenever I have bought a new camera — my photography has never improved. If anything, buying a new camera introduces a plethora of new problems — more megapixels means we need to buy more storage. Bigger files means that we need to buy faster computers. And the more we upgrade our cameras and lenses, the bigger they generally get — and the more weight we feel in our shoulders. We can’t walk as long without pain. Therefore we end up taking fewer photos.
I’ve actually realized that the 2-week adjustment “hedonic adaptation” concept works for cameras that are cheaper.
For example, regardless if you buy a $500 camera or a $5000 camera, you will get “used to” each camera after about 2 weeks.
Therefore doesn’t it make more logical sense to invest in a cheaper camera, because you’re going to get used to it anyways? And you can use all that extra money to attend photography workshops, buy photo books, or travel. And psychologists have shown that we feel greater “happiness” when we invest in experiences, not stuff.
I also have learned what this means is to set a limit to the gear that you buy. There is a certain point where you don’t need better image quality, megapixels, or other functions. Set a limit— and once you reach it, and are satisfied— you will end up using all your extra mental energy to actually going out and taking photos and being creative.
2. More cameras, more problems
When I used to own lots of different cameras and lenses, I would suffer from “choice anxiety.” I wanted to go out and shoot, and had no idea which camera, lens, or setup to use. I wasted precious mental energy figuring out how to best “optimize” my gear— to make the best possible photos.
More cameras, more problems.
The more cameras we own, the more cameras we need to charge. The more cameras we own, the more difficult it is to organize our files on our computers. The more cameras and lenses we have, the less time and focus we have to master one camera and one lens.
Not only that, but I felt that when I owned many different cameras and lenses— I would feel guilt for not using all of them. Kind of like being a parent and neglecting a certain child.
I personally believe in the “one camera, one lens” philosophy. But I don’t expect you to do what I do.
Instead, there are different strategies to simplify your life.
For example, whenever you buy a new camera, try to sell 2 of your cameras. Whenever you buy a new lens, try to sell 2 of your lenses that aren’t being used much.
Or another way you can simplify your life — categorize your gear for different needs.
For example, one of your cameras can be used for your professional work.
One of your cameras can be used to photograph your personal photos — your kids, friends, and family.
One of your cameras can be your dedicated street photography camera.
Essentially there is no “evil” of owning lots of different cameras. What I’m trying to state is that by owning more cameras than you need, it will add stress, anxiety, and frustration to your life. And therefore you will end up being less productive, creative, and effective with your image-making…